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Shirley Raines is a warrior. A warrior in (amazing) makeup, brightly colored hair and piercings. A mother of six, who has spent the last three years serving the community with her non-profit, Beauty2TheStreetz.
The organization's mission is simple, to connect and care for those so many of us have forgotten, the homeless living on LA's Skid Row. She helps to provide food, showers, hair cuts, makeovers and other hygiene care and more important than all of that, a one-on-one connection so that they know that someone cares about them.
And yes, you heard me...makeovers. Shirley says she knows first hand what makeup and hair color can do for herself, telling Vogue:
“When I put on these bold colors and look in the mirror, I don’t see the woman that’s buried so many people she loves. I don’t see the woman that’s worried where her next dollar is coming from. I don’t see the woman that’s put on 30 pounds because of the Prozac.”
What she sees instead is a bright, positive person determined to help others feel the same. Shirley says when she first appeared on Skid Row, so many women asked about her makeup, hair and lashes, and that's when she realized that helping these women feel good about themselves was the first step into really reaching a connection with them.
“When we do their hair and makeup, it creates an opening for them to tell their story, like, ‘My mom always used to wear this lip color.’ They open up, they become nostalgic, and they look in the mirror and can’t believe what they look like. ‘They’re like, ‘Oh my God, is that me? I’m like, ‘Yes, that is you, queen!’”
Since the Covid-19 situation hit Los Angeles, she's had to make some adjustments to her work, but she's still out there, every week, despite the risk to herself, to help as many people as she can.
"It's very unsettling for me and my team. Of course we're paranoid and washing our hands 24/7. Of course my family is concerned. My kids and my sister beg me, 'Please don't go out there,' and I'm just like, 'I gotta. We can't give up on them right now.'"
Each week she loads up her car with: water, food, hand sanitizer, and all kinds of products donated by companies or purchased by followers from her Amazon Wish List, and makes her way the half hour from her home to LA's Skid Row where her team of volunteers meet her. She puts on her gloves and bedazzled face mask, her volunteers gear up with face masks and gloves and they start their work while adhearing to social distancing guidelines, passing out these items from their cars to those living on the street.
But trust me, with those gorgeous eyes, lashes and colorful hair and eye shadow, people still recognize her right away!
Once the Covid-19 scare passes she'd love to open a full-service salon, and get back to doing the one-on-one makeovers for those on Skid Row that she loves doing so much.
What Shirley is doing is not only building personal connections with those on Skid Row, she's building trust with a community that historically has been wary of people on the outside. She says she's there for them no matter what, Covid-19 or not.
Shirley spoke to Wake Up Call about her work and how the public can help.